Comelec changes tune, OKs plebiscite in 2025 elections

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Comelec changes tune, OKs plebiscite in 2025 elections
George Erwin Garcia Chairman, COMELEC
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections has changed its stance about holding a Charter change plebiscite during the midterm elections after President Marcos Jr. said he wants people to vote on amendments to the 1987 Constitution in 2025.

Comelec Chairperson George Garcia said on Tuesday that the national plebiscite for amendments to the Charter can take place during the 2025 national and local elections at no additional cost to the government.

Based on preparations by the poll body, Garcia said that voters may have to fill out a longer ballot, but the budget for the elections will stay the same, according to an interview aired in a report by Frontline Pilipinas.  

This comes after Garcia originally said during the second week of February that the poll body could not hold the plebiscite during the midterm elections due to legal and logistical issues.

In a February 7 interview with ANC’s Headstart, Garcia said: “I would like to announce in your progam.. we cannot hold such plebiscite in 2025, the earliest is 2026.”

At the time, Garcia cited a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the holding of a regular election simultaneous with a national plebiscite. He also expressed concerns about whether voters will “have a clear mind” if they are mulling their vote for national leaders and changes to the Constitution.

“If this administration wants a plebiscite in 2025, I will respectfully decline because you cannot squeeze a plebiscite in the middle of an election,” Garcia said in the February 7 interview.

The chairperson of the Comelec — a body that is designed to be constitutionally independent from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government — has since reversed his position and believes the national plebiscite can be held in 2025.

This comes after Marcos told senators that he wants the plebiscite to coincide with the 2025 midterm elections due to the P13 billion cost of holding it separately, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Tuesday. 

Marcos confirmed this on Wednesday, saying that the plebiscite should not be held earlier than 2025 to “save money.”

RELATED: Marcos wants Cha-cha plebiscite in 2025 elections 

This directive from the president had prompted Zubiri to say that the Senate may pass Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6 — which proposes economic amendments to the Constitution — at least before Congress adjourns sine die in May.

Meanwhile, the House is eyeing a more expedited Cha-cha process and has stood pat with its target approval of the similarly-worded RBH 7 before the Holy Week break in March. House leaders previously committed to holding Cha-cha hearings thrice a week to fast-track the passage of RBH 7.

For the president, an early approval of the Charter change proposal in Congress will not make him budge on his preferred timeline.

“Well, it doesn't mean that when the House or the Senate is finished, it is necessary to hold a plebiscite. We can wait for the plebiscite and hold it alongside the local elections,” Marcos said on Wednesday in a state news release.

On Wednesday, Garcia said that the poll body plans to extend the voting hours in the 2025 polls to accommodate possible issues with the use of new machines and the possibility of holding the Charter plebiscite. 

From voting hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the poll body said it could be extended to 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Garcia also wants an additional P2,000 honorarium for teacher-volunteers who will man the voting precincts. “They will have to render longer hours,” he said.

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